Deans and Sharpe renew struggle against false-dawn syndrome

Paul Cully Columnist

By Paul Cully, Paul Cully is a Roar Expert

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    Wallabies captain Nathan Sharpe is congratulated by coach Robbie Deans. AP Image/Dave Hunt

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    Where to now for the Wallabies after Saturday’s imperfect but committed and admirable effort?

    Their followers with good memories will be reflecting on an improved performance with a sense of contentment yet simultaneously hosing down the expectancy levels that with the knowledge that over recent years an unwelcome tag has been owned by Australia: they are the kings of the false dawn.

    In pertinent pre-match and post-match comments from Nathan Sharpe and Robbie Deans it is clear that captain and coach are painfully aware of the frailty.

    That they are on the same page gives hope that it can be erased.

    “We like a challenge,” Sharpe said in the days before the third Bledisloe. “It probably fits the Australian psyche a little bit. When the back’s to the wall, the guys love to show their character. That’s a strength, but it’s also a weakness and something we’ve got to get away from in Australian rugby.”

    The coach followed that up with: “If the boys turn up like they did last night it will be a good tour.”

    Of the frustrations Deans feels – you suspect that his much-criticised communication style is, in part, a diplomatic necessity to prevent himself saying what he really thinks – it is surely this lack of consistent intensity that vexes him the most.

    When the Wallabies have needed to back up, they have folded.

    And when they have been on the ropes, inspiration has been found to come out swinging. As Sharpe pointed out, it is a difficult way to build anything of substance. Perhaps the pair need to sneak looped recordings of the Ireland, Samoa, Scotland and World Cup semi-final performances onto the in-flight system en route to Paris.

    At least if you break their game down encouraging signs can be detected.

    Only one try has been conceded in the past two Tests, Ben Tapuai is an underrated package of smarts and a low centre of gravity (you cannot mark the player’s cards because of one missed overlap in the infancy of his Test career), Wycliff Palu returned with the vigour that is reserved to players who are aware that careers are fragile and in the past two encounters Benn Robinson has just submitted the best 120 minutes of his year.

    Of other improvements Kurtley Beale is growing with each outing at No.10. He gives no sleepless nights with his defensive work in his channel and his tactical kicking from hand, particularly those deep restarts, is putting his team into some good areas.

    The Wallabies had 57 per cent of the territory in Brisbane, although admittedly not enough in the All Blacks’ 22.

    Accordingly, expectations for the northern tour may have been revised upwards since the disappointment of Pretoria, where a heavy injury toll as the game progressed could not disguise the lack of sting in the early exchanges. The Wallabies were second-best from the outset that day.

    Three wins from four of the upcoming assignments would represent a commendable return, while an uncommon clean sweep would be a statement.

    Thierry Dusatoir is likely to be out of the French game (“we lose more than a player…” was the melancholic response from one French tweeter on Monday) while the Welsh will be denied access to several of their best because they play with French clubs and the December 1 game falls outside the IRB window.

    Theoretically, although here we must acknowledge Australia’s capacity for self-destruction, Italy in Florence should represent a win for the visitors, but Twickenham is always a nervous occasion.

    Three from four is achievable.

    With two, Australia would enter 2013, a Lions year and a massive one for the code, with familiar doubts in the air.

    Paul Cully
    Paul Cully

    Paul Cully is a freelance journalist who was born in New Zealand, raised in Northern Ireland, but spent most of his working life in Australia. He is a former Sun-Herald sports editor, rugby tragic, and current Roar and RugbyHeaven contributor.

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    The Crowd Says (58)

    • October 24th 2012 @ 7:59am
      kane said | October 24th 2012 @ 7:59am | ! Report

      3 wins out of 4 is a good result considering this weaken squad. However the NH pundits wont see it that way. They would see it as hope for the Lions next year and the fact they now have a kiwi coach will make things interesting

      • October 24th 2012 @ 4:47pm
        mervyn grimley said | October 24th 2012 @ 4:47pm | ! Report

        they had a kiwi coach last time they toured. Graham Henry. We won.

        • October 24th 2012 @ 4:54pm
          Jerry said | October 24th 2012 @ 4:54pm | ! Report

          Yeah, but you had the best Wallaby coach of the pro era back then. Now you’ve got the worst.

    • Roar Guru

      October 24th 2012 @ 8:18am
      Shop said | October 24th 2012 @ 8:18am | ! Report

      “kings of the false dawn”. Right on the money with that comment Paul.

      I said to a kiwi mate as the anthems played last week that the Wallabies really looked up for it (for a change).
      It is the coaches and captains job to prepare the team before a match. I think Sharpe has done this very well since the (c) has been next to his name. Let’s hope Mr Deans has learnt a bit about combatting the false dawn syndrome also….

    • October 24th 2012 @ 8:31am
      Riccardo said | October 24th 2012 @ 8:31am | ! Report

      I wouldn’t read too much into Saturday’s performance regarding the upcoming tour; this would apply to both teams.

      If they make the same errors they did in the weekend both teams would be vulnerable.

      While improved commitment from the Wallabies is to be admired and certainly positive to take away, some of the error ridden rugby on display is an invitation for punishment and this won’t have gone unnoticed up north.

      The All Blacks need to look at their weakness at the breakdown and their woeful discipline. A return to a well planned and chased kicking game would be welcome too.

      It would appear the Wallabies have the more difficult itinerary; 3 from 4 would indeed be a good return. While the Welsh will throw everything at the All Blacks in Cardiff it would be the England fixture at Twickers that I would pick to trip them up.

    • October 24th 2012 @ 8:36am
      formeropenside said | October 24th 2012 @ 8:36am | ! Report

      3 from 4 is the average performance on an EOYT. After the last disastrous few years, Deans gets to stay on with an average performance? And, more to the point, we are all happy about that?

      • October 24th 2012 @ 9:16am
        soapit said | October 24th 2012 @ 9:16am | ! Report

        he’s been retained to this point so meeting the average success rate is unlikely to get him sacked from here.

      • October 24th 2012 @ 9:24am
        Jutsie said | October 24th 2012 @ 9:24am | ! Report

        Which years would you classify as disastrous?
        I would classify 2009 as disastrous, 2010 and 2008 as promising and 2011 as disappointing. Im not really sure what I would classify this year as yet, there is so many factors to take into the equation.
        The last few games whilst not pretty have given me some hope as the team has displayed some commitment, toughness and courage that has been lacking for the most part during dean’s tenure. But like Paul says its could be a false dawn as we saw these attributes last year in brisbane and wellington.
        I wont be happy with 3-1 tour either but I dont think a 3-1 tour would be grounds for any coach to be sacked.

      • October 24th 2012 @ 10:44am
        Harry said | October 24th 2012 @ 10:44am | ! Report

        Unfortunately FOS it looks like we are stuck with Deans till the end of 2013, unless Italy were to do us. I suspect we’ll win 3 from 4 on tour.
        That means more Pat McCabe, Nick Phipps and Dave Dennis style ordinariness, a modest yet poorly executed playing philosophy and the ongoing barrage of Dingo Lingo.
        At least they’ve managed to get Kurtley Beale fit and firing, Tapui into the team (he should be 12 and AAC 13), and have got the forwards reasonably fit and focused.

    • October 24th 2012 @ 8:38am
      Krasnoff of Noosa said | October 24th 2012 @ 8:38am | ! Report

      When commentators set the achievable goals to three out of four, what price the players? Is this a measure of the Wallabies’ true capabilities—that they can win only 75% of their games on this tour—or are we taking an each-way bet on failure? Given Deans’ poor record at motivational performance, why doesn’t the ARU offer a seat to Wayne Bennett as a motivational coach for the tour?

      • October 24th 2012 @ 7:21pm
        Mike said | October 24th 2012 @ 7:21pm | ! Report

        No, we are being realistic.

        And no, there is no connection between what commentators think and what the players think.

        If you want to talk up the Wallabies as being certs to get four games out of four go ahead. If they do, I think its great and I will cheer them on for each match, but if I was a betting man I would not be betting on 4/4.

    • October 24th 2012 @ 8:49am
      bennalong said | October 24th 2012 @ 8:49am | ! Report


      A good projection.

      I have appreciated your recent efforts which have highlighted the positive.

      I would like to point out another

      The Wallabies were seen as a sixty minute team in the past. Fast starters but unable to put in for a full 80

      I believe this has now been put to bed with consistent full game performances, even in the disasters, and I am hopeful it is another sign of growing self belief, especially given the welcome signs around our set piece performances

      Perhaps the absence of ‘stars’ has been a formative period in the computation. Given that Nathan Sharpe is the Captain who I believe stands tall not as a star but as a man, and a man of integrity and strength of purpose who leads by example and is immensely proud of the green and gold(not yellow)

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